This is holy ground. This is a place God has sanctified and given to man. And man gave his life to sustain its future, his future, all to glorify God.
There are no words to describe this monastery. The grounds, the buildings, classrooms, and many churches (17) overwhelm the senses, even in the midst of a wintry day. The feet may slip on the ice, but the heart and soul are firmly implanted on holy ground.
There were no distractions at the lavra. Even amid the snowy slush, everything was clean – immaculate; as though waiting for the return of the Son, knowing the Holy Spirit is present, and the Father is looking on. Everything I complained about yesterday was absent today. Forgive me…
Today we walked into the caves where the tombs of saints reside. And that which we saw was only a glimpse of what God is aware of. This is the Jerusalem of the Rus; the place where our Holy Orthodox faith took firm roots among the Slavic peoples. This is the place that was chosen by God for man. It was from this location that Prince Vladimir, ruler of Kievan Rus, ordered his people to be baptized in the Dnieper River.
Yet man has proven to be the greatest enemy of the lavra. It survived the Revolution of 1917, the Communist’s murder of its Metropolitan Vladimir in 1918, and summary execution of its priests from the time of the revolution through 1930 when its assets were liquidated by the Soviet Union. In 1941, two months after Nazi occupation, Holy Dormition was bombed – blown up into near non-existence. Even so, miraculously, altars survived. And with God’s grace and eternal benevolence, all was reconstructed and in August 2001 the Pechersk Lavra celebrated its 950th anniversary.
The Refectory Church, its interior darkened by centuries of exposure to climate, man, and time, with its 20 meter diameter dome, is a place where a person should fall to his knees…knowing it has served man and glorified God so many untold times. Yet aged, it was alive. Old women were cleaning, moping, scraping wax off the stone floors, dusting the walls, and doing all within their power to maintain the purity and sanctity of the church. This was the least they could do. It is the least we could do to serve our eternal Father.